Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Danny Alexander’

Danny Alexander Is a Rat

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 11th February, 2014

Danny AlexanderChinese RatHarriet Harman once notoriously referred to Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander as a “ginger rodent” — a remark she later regretted and withdrew, though Danny had the last laugh by sending out a Christmas card the following Michaelmas featuring a red squirrel. Alexander 3, Harman 0, as London’s Evening Standard likes to summarise these political spats. But this evening, at the Chinese Liberal Democrats’ annual Chinese New Year dinner in London’s Chinatown, at which he was guest speaker, Danny made himself a further hostage to fortune to the political sketchwriters by admitting that he discovered recently that in Chinese terms, he is a Rat (having been born in the year starting 15 February 1972). According to the Chinese zodiac, the strengths of Rats include being smart and wealthy and successful (all great Chinese virtues). Rats are also sanguine and very adaptable, and popular. I shall leave others to research the Rats’ weaknesses. This year, of course, is the Year of the Horse, which Liberal Democrats in London hope will lead to the Party galloping to victory in the local and European elections on 22 May. Certainly, Britain’s economic and financial position — for which Danny must share some of the Coalition’s responsibility — is in a far healthier state than when the new Government took over in 2010, and the steady rise of the income tax allowance to £10,000 is indeed something for all to celebrate. Moreover, as tonight’s dinner attendance showed, the LibDems’ reach into both the Chinese and Korean communities in the UK has been impressively extended.So which Labour MP will be the first to tease Danny the Rat? Not Harriet Harman, I’m sure. Once bitten, twice shy. Oh, and if you’re wondering, I’m a Tiger. Doesn’t it show?



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UK Should Be Leading, Not Leaving, the EU

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 11th January, 2014

Danny AlexanderWith just five months to go before the European elections, the junior partners in Britain’s governing Coalition, the Liberal Democrats, have been showing just how much  they differ from their Conservative partners when it comes to the country’s relationship with the European Union. The Party Leader, Nick Clegg, as well as its President, Tim Farron, have made abundantly clear why the LibDems are the party of “IN”, not “OUT”, as many Tories appear to be, aping UKIP. This weekend, the LibDem Treasury Secretary, Danny Alexander, has a strong piece on Liberal Democrat Voice (Link here: arguing that Britain mustn’t fritter away its EU influence when it could be leading the drive for jobs and growth. Danny is well placed to comment, having followed EU affairs closely since working as a young man for the European Movement. But I would go further than him and say that without Tory shilly-shallying, Britain could be leading the EU, as an equal patrner alongside Germany. The Germans would love that, especially now that France has a rather flakey President in Francois Hollande. And we have so much to offer the EU. We could be championing reforms that do need to occur, but are franklçy unlikely to do so long as Britain has its coat on and one hand on the door to leave, as European Council President Herman van Rompuy once brilliantly put it. So in the run-up to May, the two Coalition government partners will be singing from very different hymn-sheets when it comes to Britain in the EU — and it is vital that that LibDem voice be amplified, in the best interests of this country.

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Danny Alexander’s Diwali Dish

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 26th November, 2013

Diwali dinnerFor the British United Indian Liberal Democrats (BUILD) Diwali is a movable feast, and the fact that tonight’s dinner in the excellent Seasoning north Indian restaurant in Fulham took place long after most other Diwali celebrations were over in no way dimmed the light of the occasion, organised by my indefatigable fellow London LibDem Euro-candidate Anuja Prashar. In fact the timing was perfect, in that the keynote speaker, Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander, recently went on his first ever visit to India to help promote British trade, and duly loved the place (his colleague Vince Cable, incidentally, is virtually an old India hand). The way some UKIP and Tory Eurosceptics spin things you’d think the UK would need to leave the EU to do trade promotion with India effectively, but the opposite is true. Danny is of course also a thoroughbred Europhile, having worked in the not too dim and distant past for the European Movement, which means that both LibDem members of the Coalition Government’s core quartet (the other being Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, of course) are completely on message when it comes to the Liberal Democrats being the party of IN so far as the EU is concerned. In his speech, Danny did a fine balancing act, on the one hand justifiably claiming LibDem credit for helping get Britain in a healthier economic shape than it was in 2010 as well as bringing in fairer policies such as raising the tax allowance to £10,000 (as it will be in April), and saying that for all their obvious policy disagreements he gets on with the Chancellor, George Osborne well. But on the other hand Danny came out strongly on differentiation from the Conservatives, not just on Europe — though that is increasingly self-evident — but on a range of issues, as the Conservative Party is being tugged to the right by many of its backbenchers and Labour is once more being cosy with left-wing trade unions. We are the party of the centre ground, Danny declared — though I personally prefer one of Charles Kennedy’s old sayings: that we are neither left nor right but centre forward. Danny usefully trailed the ALDE (European Liberal Democrats) Congress which will be taking place in Canary Wharf later this week (which I will be attending) and at which he will of course feature, along with other UK government stars and some heavyweight delegations from across our wonderful, diverse continent.

Photo of Danny Alexander, Jonathan Fryer, Anuja Prashar and Geoff Payne (by Merlene Emerson)

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Danny Alexander Gets Down to Business, Eventually

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 1st February, 2012

Liberal Democrats in Business made good use of their Coalition clout by getting Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary at the Treasury, to speak at a meeting at the National Liberal Club this evening. It was hardly their fault (or his) that he arrived two hours after the programmed start of the event, by which time half the hundred or so participants were well and truly sozzled from the pre-talk wine and canapé reception. Important votes had been taking place on the Welfare Reform Bill in the House of Commons, at which of course he had to be present. But he finally arrived looking far fresher and with-it than most of his audience. His remarks — pithy but absolutely to the point — were made under Chatham House rules, which — as most readers of political blogs will know — means that one cannot attribute any comments to a particular person or a particular place. However, as I have already mentioned the person and the place, I shall have to invoke Alice in Wonderland Chatham House Rules and not report what Danny actually said instead. Sorry about that. However, suffice it to say that I am relieved that someone who has genuine and proven pro-European views is in such a pivotal position in the Cabinet. The Coalition Government has been giving out mixed messages on Europe recently, to put it mildly, but I take some comfort from the fact that the voices of moderation and cooperation have been winning through over the past few days. Danny represents the seat (albeit with boundary changes) held formerly by my longstanding friend and fellow Europhile Russell Johnston, and I am sure that Russell, beyond the grave, would be proud of what Danny has achieved. I personally am sad that I had to turn down an invitation to go to their beloved Inverness next month, to speak at the Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference on the Arab Spring, as I had a prior booking to present a paper on the media aspects of the same at an international conference in Berlin. But I will be with them in spirit and will metaphorically toast Danny and his colleagues with a dram of whisky as they defend the best interests of Scotland in the United Kingdom in the European Union.


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Danny Alexander Charms Islington

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 10th March, 2011

The UK Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander — who has self-assuredly accepted his mocking nickname of the Ginger Rodent — was guest of honour at a gala dinner last night put on by Islington Liberal Democrats at Fredericks Restaurant in Camden Passage. He set out some of the achievements of LibDems in government, including the forthcoming rise in the income tax threshold to £10,000, and confirmed the fact that many Labour-run councils are cutting some frontline services unnecessarily, either because they are sitting on banked resources which they could spend, or because they are deliberately exacerbating public resentment at central government cutbacks (which were themselves the result of over-spending by Labour for years) by making cuts that will hurt. Danny restated his own deep commitment to European integration and reminded people how the LibDems have managed to help tame the rabid Eurosceptic Tory right. He looked forward to some robust debates at the Liberal Democrats’ spring conference in Sheffield this weekend — though delegates are likely to have the gauntlet of Trots and other protestors who argue that the party has sold out.


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Iceland, the EU and the Euro-elections

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 30th January, 2009

Iceland is now seriously considering applying for membership of the European Union, having followed a ‘go it alone’ policy for many years (mainly to try to keep control over its fishing grounds). The country metaphorically sank when the tide of the global financial crisis washed over it, making not just politicians but also the general public realise that at times of crisis,  it is maybe wiser to be inside a big tent rather than outside on one’s own. As all prospective members of the EU have to agree to adopt the euro, the Eurozone is therefore likely soon to absorb Iceland and reach up into the northern Atlantic, leaving Britain sticking out like a sore thumb. This is bound to reignite debate about the UK’s eventual adoption of the single currency.

In a recent Europe policy paper, passed by the last Liberal Democrat autumn conference in Bournemouth, the party reiterated its belief that Britain should join the euro in due course. That does not mean we will be campaigning in this year’s Euro-elections for immediate Eurozone membership — indeed, the pound sterling needs to recover quite a bit before it would be at an appropriate level for that to happen — but we should not ignore the issue. Informed opinion is beginning to shift on the desirability of Eurozone membership and I believe British public attitudes on the matter are starting to change.

Yesterday afternoon, I participated in a meeting at the European Parliament in Brussels between British MEPs, some of their staff and the London-based European elections manifesto team, chaired by Danny Alexander, MP. It would be improper of me to divulge details of the discussions, but suffice it to say that the elections are indeed going to be fought on European issues, notably the way that Europe can work together better to tackle current economic challenges, as well as climate change and other environmental priorities, and cross-border security issues. It will doubtless be a huge relief to all those who were embarassed by the party’s  failure to pin its European colours to the mast in previous European elections that this time there is to be no ambiguity. The Liberal Deùocrats have a unique selling point on this in the UK context and at least 30 per cent of the British electorate agrees with us, so let’s go for it!

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